Monday 31 October 2022
Sunday 30 October 2022
Saturday 29 October 2022
Wednesday 26 October 2022
Sunday 23 October 2022
Thursday 13 October 2022
I told students the story of my mental health breakdown.
Here it is in audio form:
And here is my script if you prefer reading it:
"I’ve got a story to tell you about how an experience in my life made me a better journalist and really a better person. How challenges in life can actually help you to believe in yourself!
I had a good childhood. Parents who cared, three brothers who I got on well with. A happy life, until it wasn’t a happy life. A Levels and school complete, I was travelling around Mexico on my own aged 18. Suddenly late one night in my hotel room I felt really, really, strange, my throat was getting smaller and smaller. I couldn’t breathe. A panicked confusion took over my body. I was convinced I was having a heart attack and was going to die. I was petrified, panicking. Desperate to be back home. I was rushed to hospital and remember being in an air-conditioned room where a middle-aged doctor in a white shirt did several tests on me. After being assessed I was given drugs to make me relax called tranquillisers. I couldn’t understand why I was being given these drugs but through broken Spanish I worked out the doctor thought I was suffering with a mental and not a physical problem. A panic attack, not a heart attack.
I flew home early to get better, but instead I got a lot, lot worse. Sitting on a bench with my Mum outside the GP practice in Thame I came to a realisation - I was in such a dark place that I admitted to her that I could understand why people take their own lives. I was at the start of a mental health breakdown. I couldn’t escape the feelings of desperation, of deep anxiety and yet just weeks earlier I’d finished my A Levels and life at school in my final year couldn’t have been more fulfilling as Head Boy and running a mobile disco business, DJing at loads of parties, alongside my studies. Life, from the outside, looked so good and yet inside, I was in turmoil.
I remember turning up to DJ at a pub in Thame for friend’s 18th birthday feeling petrified. I was feeling a deep panic, my stomach was churning and my throat was getting smaller and smaller again. Another panic attack. I didn’t think I’d be able to go on stage to DJ but thankfully I felt the fear and did it anyway. And when I was up there mixing between the tracks and entertaining the crowd on the mic, I felt free, the mental turmoil lifted – if only for a few hours while I was performing.
Despite my feelings of desperation, I did whatever I could to get better. Counselling, antidepressants, living healthily. The doctor said don’t go to university in Sheffield that year, too much to cope with. I was determined to go, so I did. University was a struggle. I felt very on edge. One of the only ways I could cope was by calling my Mum every single day on the phone and taking the train home to see her every weekend.
And yet from the outside no one would know I was suffering with deep anxiety. I went to all my lectures, got top grades for my essays, DJ’d at student club nights, got involved in student politics and made good friends. When I was feeling particularly brave I plucked up the courage to tell my best friend Matt what felt like my secret, that I suffered with mental health problems. He, and other close friends I confided in, were shocked. They didn’t think someone who was, in their eyes, so confident and successful could have a mental health problem. Although many of them couldn’t understand, their friendship, really helped me get through university. Being with my friends on a night out was like an escape, I could forget my fears and enjoy myself. I’m still close friends with Matt and many of those other friends now, 19 years on!
As the months and years went by, and after a lot of counselling and support from friends and family, I became stronger and more resilient. In my second year at uni my brother Andrew invited me to go to Finland on holiday. I was petrified about being away from my comfort zone. The last time I’d been abroad – in Mexico – I’d had a panic attack and thought I was going to die. I went to Finland anyway and even enjoyed it. Gradually, I broke free from the dark cloud which followed me everywhere.
I came to realise that I could cope with life. I finished my degree and started my career in radio and TV News.
My breakdown changed me forever but for the better. I can really empathise with others especially people who are going through a tough time. This makes me better at interviewing people. I really listen and really try to put myself in their shoes.
This was my life changing experience and I learnt an incredible amount about myself. On the rare occasions when I start to feel the dark cloud following me, I am able to use the techniques I have developed that work for me so I can overcome the feelings of anxiety. These include talking to loved ones, doing exercise, meditating and praying.
My breakdown was really my breakthrough.
So whatever the challenges are in your life – now or in the future – I want you to know that they can help you believe in yourself."